Ideas are where all innovation begins. The environment is not only becoming a big part of the public dialogue, it is also fueling research, education, and business. The green job sector is amongst the fastest growing in a fairly unstable and stagnant economy.
The green market is the fastest-growing retail market. A great deal of funding is going towards environmental research, and educational opportunities in the green field are becoming ever more common. The so-called Average Joe can close his solar-powered garage door and drive to work in a hybrid or electric vehicle. But some people want to see sustainability, and resource use efficiency, go a bit further.
Today’s society has often been called a “throwaway society.” Whereas we used to have products that were designed to last, and could be repaired, we now live in a society where there are tons of one-time-use products, and it is often cheaper to buy something new than it is to fix it.
This is termed a “cradle-to-grave” mentality, whereby we ignore the whole “grave” part. Products are built with a purpose in mind, and when they become obsolete, we throw them away. Where “away” actually is does not cross the minds of most people. Most often “away” is a landfill, often already at capacity. These landfills, ironically, are often full of materials that can provide energy or be recycled.
Let’s take the kitchen for example. Most of the “waste” in our kitchen could actually be used to create energy and nourish food at a later time. Essentially, waste is food. In a theoretical design, Phillips Design has created what they term a Microbial Kitchen. This is a kitchen that runs on its own waste.
The kitchen is outfitted with a bacterially driven “digestive” system, whereby methane gas is created from food scraps in a natural, biological process. What isn’t used for the creation of gas (to be used to power kitchen appliances such as a range stove), is composted to create rich fertilizer for food crops. The kitchen is also outfitted with a kitchen garden and an interesting alternative to refrigeration.
While this is still mostly conceptual, it is a great way to look at a normally wasteful area of our life — cooking and eating. This “cradle-to-cradle” mentality to the design of the kitchen ensures that anything that can be recycled or used in some way is utilized.
This type of kitchen shows how maximizing the use of readily available energy can also reduce our waste, which often ends up in a landfill. Waste being food is a great concept in sustainability, and it is wonderful to see it getting more play in the actual research and development market.
image credit: original_Mikz on Flickr